Should We Dress (and Live) Modestly?

In modern society, the term “modesty” is often held in contempt as an outdated holdover from a bygone repressive era. Some people grew up in churches where the messages they heard concerning modesty caused shame and confusion about sexuality and the goodness of the body. In light of those hurdles, is there still any place to talk about modesty?

This week, Jo and Vince discuss the biblical meaning of modesty and why this virtue, properly understood, is so profoundly important. They extend the conversation beyond a narrow view of modesty as equated with sexuality and dress, and encourage us to focus on modesty as a posture of the heart before God.

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I think it’s interesting that Jo and Vince bring “inward” modesty and humility into partnership, and encourage us to consider our focus for preparing ourselves each day.

One of my favorite Bible verses pertaining to appearance is 1 Samuel 16:7b

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance,but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I recall years ago, my kids were pretty young, and a bunch of the neighborhood kiddos were at our home and hanging out playing (probably Legos!) and the neighborhood kids were called home and I was standing at the door to say goodbye, and one stopped (he was always a polite and thoughtful child…) and said to me, “I hope you get to feeling better, Mrs. Billups!” and then he left.

I stood there wondering why he said that, and it finally occurred to me that it was the first time he had seen me without my makeup! LOL! This story has lived throughout the years in our family, in various jokes, because once I realized the issue, I thought it was SO FUNNY! But at the same time I thought of how I had drawn attention to myself by not wearing makeup. I have to say the experience stuck with me, but not in a bitter or bad way.

But considering and evaluating my motives for everything from inward to outward is important to me, and knowing I can leave the evaluation to God is very comforting. I also want to give others the benefit of value in why they choose what they do because I’ve had people furiously attack me in my motives because they assumed the worse, and I don’t want to bring that grief on others.

How does God’s ability to see right into your heart encourage and sustain you inwardly and outwardly?

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It is really sad commentary on society but in our me, self, inward mentality we have always judged a book by its cover. Society has been like that forever and few look beyond themselves and see as Jesus did the real person in need beneath the outward facade. I watched a show called Brian games and how what we see affects how we react. A well dressed business man got no sympathy but a woman not well dressed recieved much. Its challenging to move beyond preconceived notions as we see in the good Samaratin story. How many times have we seen shabbily dressed people with a hoodie over thier head or a biker looking dude and we assumed they were no good. Jesus looked beyond and saw a lost soul. If we could only look at people and see them as one of the least of these my little ones our world would be totally different because we had done it unto Him. There have been times working around the yard and needed something and had to change and clean up before I went out. Just trying to be real there are times I just went just like I was. I believe we are all prone to judge, Jesus said in Math 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.
For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
Only by living in the Spirit can I walk in the Spirit. To me the amazing thing is He knows who I am and still loves me anyway, and extends a forgiving hand. That makes me strive more to be like Him. Sorry if I rambled.
Mike

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So true! Thank you for sharing @mgaplus4. I’m not familiar with Brian Games…sounds like a real life application of what we’re talking about. Judging others does come easily and swiftly. I have to guard my responses daily to visual cues, and I make a lot of mistakes that offend the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the most unpleasant people need the most kindness.
My mom and I had a joke for years when I was a kid: If someone cut us off in traffic and was driving too fast, we’d decide they needed to get to a restroom! :rofl:
She’s been gone for 5 years, and I still think of that…
God taught me a good lesson when I was in college. I still remember the moment when I saw a young woman, and I was stunned at how she was dressed. Judged IMMEDIATELY. We ended up becoming great friends…gotta shut down the presumptions, and let the Lord introduce the reality.
Have a great weekend!

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Guilty. I don’t really put much thought into how I dress. I don’t dress for status or buy clothing that is out of my price range.

I am surprised they didn’t mention specifics such as yoga pants and what skin is appropriate to show.

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When I saw the topic, I was expecting more of a discussion on attire as well. But I like the take on the modesty of the heart, and how that influences all else.
I think your comment

I don’t dress for status or buy clothing that is out of my price range.

is a good example of daily stewardship of what God has given you.

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When they were talking about doing things to glorify God and put the focus on God instead of ourselves, I wanted to comment on Vince’s statement about working out. He said it is not beneficial to workout with the intentions of having a “beach body” because it only brings attention to yourself. I get what he is saying. They also talked about how you dress should not be to draw attention to yourself but can vary for instance if you have trouble with your self-esteem and tend to think of yourself as a nobody then it can be good to dress more intricately but maybe you should dress a little more bland/boring (I don’t know how to say this) if you think too much of your outward appearance. I understand all their points but I thought of the question we often hear in culture, What if that is your thing? some people spend lots of time getting their hair and makeup done and dressing very nice because it is something they enjoy doing. Some people workout all the time because it brings them satisfaction in the act. What do you guys think is the proper response to this? A lot of times on social media I have seen people say like if someone really likes to do this, let them. girls in particular get bashed for “dressing up for a guy” but what if they truly enjoy makeup and it is a hobby? I don’t want to get too drawn into what culture says and get away from the truth but I don’t think there are rules set in stone about this from Christianity. I know there are guidelines in the word of God that are interpreted differently from different people. Thoughts anyone?

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Hi there @Sgpage! What an insightful post! These are very important things for discussion, and you’re right social media is full of examples. I thought the podcast offered some interesting insight and new perspectives into modesty that I hadn’t considered.

I love mixed-media art, and I sometimes catch myself using some blending technique on my eye makeup that I used on paper! :rofl: And in those times even though I’m laughing at myself I’m also realizing that the Creator gives us mind, thought and movement to create and express ourselves in numerous ways as a reflection of His Creative nature.

I had to consider how I “dress for a guy”. My husband can compliment a blouse or outfit and the next thought I have is, “Oh, I should buy seven of these…how many colors does it come in?” :grin:

Taking care of our appearance is good and honors the body God gave us, and enjoying makeup or nice dress are lovely things that God does bestow on us as blessings. The thing to consider is where is our worship?

It SO important to examine ourselves daily and watch for things that may be creeping in and interfering with our fellowship with God in Christ.

I had to consider this in years when I was in intense Christian volunteer service. Sometimes even when you’re doing the Lord’s work, the Lord’s work can become an idol and you begin to consider your identity in how well and faithful you’re doing the Lord’s work.

So my point is that anything, our pursuits, possessions or passions, even when they’re good things, can become an idol that displaces God in worth and worship.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

I think some helpful questions one can ask are:
What are my motives in this pursuit? (Why am I doing it?)
What are my goals?
Who do I glorify?
How do I point to my relationship with the Lord in this activity?
Is this activity/pursuit where I find my identity? (If so, this is a big flag that your relationship with the Lord is suffering.)

It’s difficult to remember that the Lord loves us because of Who He is, and the best thing we can do is chase after that amazing fellowship over and above all things.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-34

I hope all this makes sense…

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I have a few associated thoughts about this one.

I was once the guest in an Orthodox Jewish home and, while sitting in the kitchen with the mother, her 2-year-old son came running in stark naked (and VERY happy about it). She looked at him rather sternly and said, “Menachem, when you aren’t wearing any clothes I can’t see your neshama.” (“Neshama” is one of the Hebrew words for “soul”.) I found that really deep, and it brings me to my second random association…

I once read a study that equipped men with eye-tracking software, sent them to a frat party, then stood them by the door to welcome women coming to the party. Invariably, their eyes went first to wherever the women’s clothing stopped.

Both of those informed my moderation in pious Catholic circles, where modesty can be HOTLY debated (often not in a healthy way). On the one hand, I do think immodesty in dress can be a huge problem in our society. On the other hand, focusing on modesty for the sake of “not being a stumbling block” to others can become a really unfair burden to “the stumbling block” (who is usually a woman), and it can get legalistic really fast, and result in all kinds of judgy-ness. So whenever I think about modesty, I actually apply what I think I learned from the two things above: If you dress in a way that makes people want to look at your body, they won’t see your soul. But ultimately, whether they see your soul is up to you.

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Thank you for sharing! I love the idea that seeing less is seeing more of the real person. I agree, the idea that our soul is connected to our modesty is a deep concept. It reminds me of the verse:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. I Corinthians 6:19-20

There is a distinct value and sacredness placed on our whole being because of the Lord’s love and sacrifice for us. And He goes further to offer His Holy Spirit intended to bring attention to His glory.